AFN's 'Undercover Boss: Joint Chiefs' show not fooling anyone

We're noobs, not morons.

By W.E. Linde

FORT MEADE — The Armed Forces Network (AFN) has canceled its long-planned series “Undercover Boss: Joint Chiefs Edition" before airing a single episode today. According to multiple sources, the cancellation was primarily because almost no one was being fooled by members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pretending to be low-ranking troops or basic trainees.   

The show concept was simple: like the popular, Emmy-award winning civilian version on which it was based, senior leaders of each service tried to disguise themselves as low-ranking soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in order to get insights into the real culture most rank-and-file troops operate in. None of the leaders seemed concerned that their age or current physical status would tip off the troops they were going to try and mingle with.

“That might have been an oversight,” admitted Capt. Dave Watterson, a program manager based out of AFN’s Riverside, California broadcast center.

“Extensive effort went into trying to make this plausible,” Watterson added. “We told the troops we were filming a public affairs video, which gave cover for the cameras and lighting. But it was quickly obvious no one was buying the story. At Lackland Air Force Base, for example, as soon as Gen. [Charles Q.] Brown was introduced as ‘a washback’ from another training flight named Airman Jones, the trainees and Military Training Instructors nearly had a collective panic attack.”

“Hello,” said the disguised Gen. Brown. “I’m so stoked to be a trainee in the world’s premier air and space power.”


“AIRPOWER!” he added before an MTI cautiously asked him to fall into formation.

Airman Basic Richard Alvarez, a Week Four basic trainee, said it was pretty obvious even to him that “Airman Jones” was actually the Air Force Chief of Staff.

“From Week One they drill the chain of command into your head,” said Alvarez. “Gen. Brown’s picture is in every building. So when they told us this almost 60-year-old man was a recruit who needed mentoring…I mean come on. We’re noobs, not morons,”

The other service chiefs didn’t fare any better. At Parris Island, Marine Corps Commandant David H. Berger departed only 15 minutes after joining his squad for breakfast.

“He kept asking the other recruits what they thought about the Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lord, an AFN cameraman. “The recruits wouldn’t answer, terrified of being caught speaking at chow. A drill instructor swept in, not realizing who the speaking ‘recruit’ was. The DI froze like he just stepped on a land mine when he locked eyes with Berger. The next thing you know, the DI is doing pushups in the rain.”

The one success the show had was with Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“It turns out,” said Capt. Watterson, “that nobody knows who Gen. Hokanson is. And when he went wandering around the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky pretending to be a 57-year-old Senior Airman, it was pretty damn believable. Actually, he blended in too well. He complained about the Guard and his age as much as any of the troops he talked to. So we went ahead and canceled the whole thing.”

W.E. Linde (aka Major Crunch) writes a lot. Former military intelligence officer, amateur historian, blogger/writer at Strives to be a satirist, but probably just sarcastic.  Twitter @welinde.

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